by Manu SharmaJul 31, 2023
Despite being someone who rarely indulges in reading fiction, the treasures offered by the medium do not escape my sight. The magical, metaphorical world of Mark Rogers comes alive as a direct consequence of fictional fantasy. A cursory look will report wizardry and talking animals. A second glance will reveal recurring symbols. A new thread from the world he weaves shows itself every time you get a little closer.
Rogers’ work is fast paced and yet somehow intricate and layered. The artist discusses his process saying, “Yes, there are storylines with recurring characters. I love stories and I love fiction and all of my paintings happen in an imaginary world that I call The Southwestern Bellows. It is a fantasy story set in a fairytale version of the wild west in the late 1800s, with aliens, magic, and other spooky things. The basic plot lines mostly exist in my head but are written down in my sketchbooks and in my Instagram posts”.
He continues to share, “Currently, I am working on a body of work about a boy who apprentices with a Cactus Witch to learn the fine art of poison making. What he learns instead is a little about friendship and a lot about the mysterious cave-dwelling aliens who inhabit the area. Spoiler alert: the apprentice accidentally poisons the Cactus Witch and she is brought back to life by the aliens.
Basically, I come up with a story or narrative for each body of work. I am not concerned about them making complete sense to the viewer because I am a painter first and foremost, and not trying to create a comic book or storybook. For me, it is all about letting my imagination run wild so that I can make weird/creepy/funny paintings”.
Rogers tells STIR about his journey as a painter, an encounter with his multidimensional consciousness which quite literally changed his life. He says, “I started painting seriously in 2009 at the age of 30. I drew a lot as a kid and it was one of my main hobbies all the way through High School. However, when I went to college, art took a back seat to other interests. Later I took a painting class, where I painted for the first time, and completely fell in love with it. I seriously had a weird feeling that I had painted before, like in a past life. It was a really strange experience, and I vowed then to become a professional painter. For many years I painted each day and tended bar a few nights a week. I slowly scaled back my bar shifts until I was able to make art my full-time job. I have been completely self-employed for almost two years”.
Out of curiosity about the worldview he narrates in his art, I asked him more about the relationship between aliens and humans. He responds saying, “Just like people, some are good and some are bad. There are several different varieties of aliens that populate my stories and I haven’t painted about all of the different beings floating in my imagination yet, but one day I hope to.
The aliens that I paint about the most are the Zeta Reticulan Grays, and they are for the most part aligned, chaotic neutral. They mainly exist on the earth to harvest human dreams, eat gold, and collect decorative cactuses for their telepathic cactus-based religion. There are other gray aliens too who are immortal but have a second religion based around death and they align more chaotic evil. These aliens enjoy trapping people in crystals, surprise surgery, wearing living animal heads, setting houses on fire, and acting really scary. I also paint about shapeshifting reptilian lizard beings who seek to dominate the Earth, but the Grays have established a force field protecting the planet - and access to their food gold - from the Reptilian Space Fleet stationed on the moon. There is a bit of a rivalry there. It all sounds a bit mad. I have a lot of fun and I really love my job”.
The artist’s magnetic attraction to the supernatural and bizarre serves as a guiding star to his own creative practice. Rogers says, “I have always been fascinated with the paranormal, weird mysteries, magic, the occult, aliens, and monsters for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was being raised Catholic? I feel that I was exposed to narrative art depicting supernatural events from an early age, and along with that, a belief in ghosts and beings outside of our visible reality. From there I have continued to read about the paranormal, throughout the course of my whole life. I have even had a few experiences of my own”.